It’s not unusual to see upwards of 4,000 fans file into Huskies Stadium for a football game. But Halifax runner Geoff Harris yearns for a similar turnout for the Aileen Meagher International Track Classic.
The annual meet is the fifth of six stops on the National Track League circuit this summer — following visits to Victoria, B.C., Vancouver, Edmonton and Moncton — and action starts at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“When we go to the west coast and race those races, they sell the place out, and that’s my dream one day,” Harris said. “Whether I’m an athlete when it happens or not, I want to see SMU packed like it is for a football game, for a track meet.”
Harris, an 800-metre standout, along with 200-metre women’s star Jenna Martin of Bridgewater, has given fans plenty of motivation to drop by on Sunday. Both won national championships last week and both are headed to the Summer Olympics in London later this month. The Aileen Meagher is a perfect send-off.
“It’s a special occasion,” said meet director Kevin Heisler. “This is the last opportunity (for Harris and Martin) to race before the Olympic Games, and this is an opportunity for people to come out and see them race and support them.”
Heisler counts at least eight London Olympians in this year’s Aileen Meagher field, all hoping to post good times in advance of the Games. Throw in a handful of athletes from Carribean countries racing in their last chance to hit Olympic qualifying times and competition should be higher than ever.
“These kids are here for a reason,” Heisler said. “They’re not here for our warm weather, they’re here to qualify for the Olympics.”
The 25-year-old Harris skipped the Hub City Track Classic in Moncton this week to be at his best for Sunday. He said he’s hoping to set his fifth personal-best time of the season as he gears up the Games — and hopes a big crowd spurs him to it.
“We want people who have never seen a track meet before in Halifax to come and see it,” Harris said. “When you get more people out, it helps the runners and makes it more fun for the crowd. It’s very entertaining.”
TALENT ON THE TRACK
Following are some of the Olympic-bound stars competing in Sunday’s Aileen Meagher International Track Classic at Huskies Stadium.
— Geoff Harris, Canada (men’s 800m)
— Julius Mutekanga, Uganda (men’s 800m)
— Justyn Warner, Canada (men’s 100m)
— Derrick Atkins, Bahamas (men’s 100m)
— Oluseyi Smith, Canada (men’s 100m)
— Jenna Martin, Canada (women’s 200m)
— Nikita Holder, Canada (women’s 100m hurdles)
— Patricia Sylvester, Grenada (women’s long jump)